© Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2012.
Blind minotaur guided by Marie-Thérèse in a starry night
Scraped aquatint with drypoint and burin, 1934-5
Bought from the Rylands Fund with the help of the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund 2009
This is among the most admired prints in the Vollard suite, Picasso's most celebrated series. The dramatic use of aquatint, which is burnished in the manner of a mezzotint, working from velvet black to light (particularly apt for a night scene), makes this perhaps the most spectacular print in the series. The provenance of this unsigned impression from an heir of the printer, Roger Lacourière, suggests that it is one of the few proofs printed by Lacourière at the same time as the edition in 1939 (the edition of the Vollard suite was not printed earlier because of the death of the publisher, Ambroise Vollard).
A group of prints in the Vollard suite used the artist's self-identification with the mythical minotaur - half-man/half-bull - to embody elements of his relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter. The beast kept by Crete's King Minos in a deep labyrinth and fed on annual human offerings from Athens became for Picasso a symbol of sexual potency and passion, of unconscious impulsions; he was blessed with the vision to see in the darkness of the labyrinth, blinded by the harsh daylight of the human world. The sailors who arrive in the boat with white sails on the right of the print are doubtless a reference to Theseus, who sailed to Crete to slay the minotaur; he achieved this with the help of Minos's daughter Ariadne, whom he promised to marry but later abandoned on the island of Naxos.